The development of a competent biomedical scientific workforce that innovates and adequately addresses the health needs of the U.S. may require taping on talented young people from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, while members of underrepresented minority (URM) groups comprise more than 31% of the U.S. population, they barely represent 14% of the science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) doctoral workforce. Our lack of progress in addressing this challenge represents a significant hurdle to make progress in eliminating health disparities and advance scientific discoveries to find cures for the leading causes of mortality among our population. The goal of the Loma Linda University Initiative for Maximizing Student Development program (LLU-NIH IMSD) is to increase diversity in the biomedical/behavioral sciences by increasing the number of URMs students graduating with a PhD in the biomedical sciences. The objective of this project is to provide integral and continuous support to students participating in the LLU-NIH IMSD program in order to enhance their timely completion of the Ph.D. degree and transition into postdoctoral careers. This application has three specific aims.
Specific Aim 1 is to increase the number of URM students timely graduating with a Ph.D. degree in a biomedical/behavioral field from Loma Linda University. We will achieve Aim 1 by using an Individual Developmental Plan to assess student's baseline skills and achieve self-advocacy, career development, and personalized training. We plan to provide continuous support to participant students to have a seven-year Ph.D. completion rate of 85%, a ten-year completion rate of 95%, a target attrition rate below 5%, and an average time-to-degree of 5.5 years.
Specific Aim 2 is to enhance professionalism and scientific scholarship of IMSD students to have a competitive Ph.D. training and successful transition to postdoctoral careers. Students will participate in an enhanced, and tested research education program implemented as a Personalized Training Program (PTP). The PTP will specifically target reducing barriers affecting URM success in completing the Ph.D. degree. The PTP core goal is to increase a research and academic self-efficacy that will empower students to be successful in excelling in required courses, competitively applying for national fellowships, and increasing productivity in their research and other scholarly activities.
Specific Aim 3 is to use the leverage of the LLU-NIH IMSD program implementation and visibility to continue having a broad diversity institutional impact among doctoral programs at LLU. The LLU- NIH IMSD program will work collaboratively with the LLU Health Disparities Research Pipeline Program to have a significant diversity impact at LLU. A measurable goal is to increase by 50% the number of URM students graduating with a biomedical/behavioral degree from LLU during the next five years. The LLU-NIH IMSD program's outcomes and proposed research education program will continue to address the national goal of achieving a diverse biomedical workforce not only by increasing the number of URM students completing doctoral degrees but also by significantly expanding the number of these students entering the biomedical workforce.
Building a diverse scientific biomedical workforce is essential to advance discoveries to find the cure for leading diseases causing morbidity and high mortality rate in USA. This application presents a plan that once implemented will increase the number of scientists from diverse backgrounds involved in biomedical research.
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